This I Believe

Shivani - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Entered on February 14, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I turned twenty-nine last month and, as someone who likes to celebrate her birthweek rather than birthday, my husband scratched his head trying to come up with events with the requisite exuberant panache. We went down a list: a drive into Dutch country, dinner at a swank restaurant, a feel-good movie, and dancing with friends. For any twenty-something on the cusp of her thirties, these celebrations would create a bang for a new year.

But the day after my birthday, I was left with a sagging feeling. Are cupcakes, birthday candles and balloons only to be memories of my childhood? I asked my husband to take me to a local bakery to pick up cupcakes. A few hours later, our dining room was a party room. There was a “Happy Birthday” banner obscuring our elegant wall art and helium balloons. Our dining table was crowned with a two-tiered arrangement of cupcakes lit with tea candles and a tower of party hats. I had invited only my kiddie neighbors.

Ruya, 4, and Elicar, 8 were the first to arrive. Elicar’s eyes widened as he saw the dining room, “Oh wow, this is a real birthday party! I hardly get to go to real birthday parties! Where are the goodie bags?” Ruya wore her best purple princess dress and donned a crown she found on the table. We each took turns blowing out the candles while “Happy Birthday from Sesame Street” played in the background. With children, play came naturally: they sprawled on the floor with puzzles and twirled to Disney songs. It was a veritable birthday party filled with music, enthusiasm and energy, all for me to welcome a new year.

When they all left with balloons and leftover cupcakes, I was glowing. My birthweek celebrations were now complete. No swanky restaurant or chic club can compare to a birthday celebration with children. Only children will celebrate your birthday as if it were their own and hold their breath as you blow out the candles. Only children will delight in the crusted elegance of frosting and beg for the crowning glory of a make believe flower on their plate. Only children will relish the simple pleasure of wearing a party hat and remind you with their smiles how happy you are to be alive.

When I turn thirty next year, there will be a party in grand style as I welcome a new decade. I am sure my husband will not be scratching his head wondering where to book dinner reservations. He’ll probably be pacing the aisles of a party supply shop looking for “3” and “0” piñata as the final birthday party act. You’ll be sure that I will set more seats for children with a smattering of adults. After all, only a child can inspire us to be alive with the eagerness and innocence of youth. On your next birthday, make sure you save a space or two for the special children in your life.